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Asean launches report on easing trade barriers, bottlenecks

Dec 02. 2013
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By The Nation

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The Asean Business Club (ABC) recently launched the Lifting-the-Barriers (LTB) Reports, a white paper outlining possible solutions to barriers hindering free trade in the region.
The LTB reports cover six priority sectors, namely aviation, connectivity, infrastructure, power and utilities, capital markets, financial services and healthcare. The white paper was launched as a private-sector initiative to support the development of an Asean Economic Community.
At the launch of the reports, Nazir Razak, CIMB Group’s chief executive and member of the ABC advisory council, stressed the need for a robust private-public engagement to see through the goal of creating a viable economic bloc. He also said that despite the progress made in eliminating most tariff lines at roughly 99.65 per cent, non-tariff barriers between Asean countries still remain high.
“I urge Asean leaders to review progress, implementation prospects and specify what will and what will not be in place on December 31, 2015. These should also be backed by binding commitments by governments so businesses can prepare themselves with certainty.”
Razak reiterated his vision for Asean 2.0, a set of initiatives to help spur economic integration. He identified three key elements to realise this vision. Firstly, there should be more power and funding to the Asean Secretariat. Secondly, he proposed an Asean minister in each government to promote Asean goals domestically. Finally, he found that projects such as the development of an Asean exchange, an Asean ratings agency and even an Asean World Cup, would help capture public imagination and sense of common identity in the region.
The ABC brings together top corporate leaders from around the region to contribute to regional integration efforts. It is the first regional business club with the aim of supporting regional integration. Its members come from Asean’s key corporations with operations ranging across 23 different industrial sectors.
The ABC is led by an advisory council comprised of top corporate personalities in the region, namely Tony Fernandes (group CEO AirAsia), Nazir Razak (group CEO, CIMB Group), Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala (chairman and CEO, Ayala Corp), Cezar P Consing (president, Bank of Philippine Islands), Chew Ghek Kim (chairman, Straits Trading Company), Simon Cheong (chairman and CEO, SC Global Developments), Tos Chirathivat (CEO, Central Retail Corporation), Chartsiri Sophonpanich (president, Bangkok Bank), Patrick Walujo (managing Partner, Northstar Group), Chairul Tanjung (chairman, CT Corp) and Thura Ko (director, YGA Capital Ltd).
In his overview of the reports, Dr Munir Majid, adviser to the LTB Initiative, stated the need for the public to impose pressure on governments to fast track Asean integration efforts. For this initiative to be successful, significant engagement between governments and businesses is required, he said. 
“The initiative provides concrete solutions as seen by the new generation of the Asean corporate leaders and entrepreneurs, who are at the forefront of making daily business decisions. The LTB reports do not just identify the major barriers and shortcomings. They also propose some workable solutions,” he said.
LTB was made possible by significant contribution from six research partners and the CIMB Asean Research Institute (CARI). The research partners are McKinsey and Company for Infrastructure; the Boston Consulting Group; Bain and Company; Accenture; Oliver Wyman; and the Centre for International Law, National University of Singapore. The reports will be presented to the Asean economic ministers.
The initiative, a joint effort by CIMB, CARI and ABC, is divided into three phases: 
Preliminary research – a compilation of qualitative and quantitative data from targeted sectors;
A roundtable discussion between industry leaders from the respective sectors at the Network Asean Forum 2013 which was held on August 22 and 23; Compilation and analysis of materials resulting in the LTB report.

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